PAF helicopters conduct operation to overcome fire

IMC officials believe locals trying to make a profit are starting the fires


A PAF helicopter drops water to douse the fire in Margalla Hills. PHOTO: ZAFAR ASLAM/EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: The raging wildfire has engulfed more than two kilometres, amid sweltering heat and wind at Margalla Hills on Friday. The Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) environment wing and Emergency & Disaster Management Directorate’s fire fighters, along with two helicopters of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) continued its fire extinguishing operation.

The PAF helicopters had been called on Thursday evening and yesterday they conducted two rounds before dark. PAF helicopters started their operation early morning on Friday. The operation is still underway as the fire could not be extinguished completely till the filing of the story.

Wildfires erupt at Margalla Hills, again

IMC sources said that the PAF helicopters have started their operation on the request of IMC Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz and choppers are continuously pouring down water from Bambi Buckets at different fires. Officials said that the fire could only be contained through helicopters and cooperation of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had been sought in this regard.

Meanwhile, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) Finance Directorate allowed hiring services of locals for the extinguishing operation at Margalla Hills on Friday.

The fire season starts from April 15 to July 15 every year and before commencement of fire season, IMC/CDA establishes pickets besides hiring services of local villagers to carry out prompt extinguishing operations at Margallas Hills.

Season’s first: Wildfire break out in Margalla Hills

This year Islamabad Wild Life Management Board had taken responsibility to carry out fire extinguishing operations at Margalla Hills due to which CDA member finance had refused to allocate funds for hiring the services of locals. However, fire incidents at Margalla Hills have increased this year.

The IMC officials blamed local people for the eruption of fires, alleging that they are behind these wildfires; adding that they start the fires so they can get hired and receive a payment for the firefighting operation.

Due to the rough terrain, it is nearly impossible to control the situation through conventional fire extinguishing vehicles and the IMC/CDA staffs are used to indigenous and manual bush beating techniques to control fire in accessible areas.

The IMC/CDA does not have aerial fire extinguishing tools or other modern technology to control the forest fires occurring in difficult and inaccessible areas.

The lack of proper safety processes and equipment is causing massive damage to the vegetation and wildlife on the hills every year.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2018.

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